Before we knew it, it was time to go back to the hostel to get picked up to go to our next destination. But first, we ate a really yummy lunch at a classy cafe a couple stores down called Fried Bananas. Dave ordered a Saffron Cream Pasta with Chicken and I got Ecuadorian style Rice with Shrimp. The best part? Each entree was not only amazing, but they were both only $5.60!
Time for a great side-note. Ecuador uses American dollars. Weird, right? This made our lives a lot easier! Food is VERY inexpensive too. Which is awesome.
After lunch, we were picked up by a driver to go to our next hostel in Riobamba. The four hour drive took us to a hostel in Riobamba where we would sleep overnight in preparation for our big hike in the Andes. Little did we know coming into this situation that Riobamba is certainly a “developing” area. It was very run down and there were stray dogs everywhere. We were only comfortable walking to the end of our block to get a bag of Doritos for dinner. I was then kept up all night hearing them outside fighting one another … traumatizing!
Waking up early the next day was exciting. We were ready for our big hike! The hike was to be two full days: one 5-6 hour hiking day to a base camp, and the other day up the El Altar volcano and back. We had our very own guide and a mule to carry our bags. We had no idea what we signed ourselves up for. When we were given rain boots and told to wear them instead of our brand new hiking boots… I should have figured it out. About 95% of the trail to the base camp consisted of three foot deep clay-like mud. The. Entire. Way.
I thought my biggest problem was my borrowed (ew) boots being too big as I would take one step and try to get out of the mud, only to have the boot stay in the mud and my foot come flying out. Every. Step. I. Would. Take. It only took about fifteen minutes for me to realize what my real issue would soon become: the altitude. For those of you who are following- I am in pretty decent shape. I work out a ton and I ran in the Broad Street 10-Mile Race only a month prior. I should be okay with this. Except I wasn’t. I became very sick very soon after we started our hike up the mountain. Stabbing headache behind my ears, nausea, dizziness… not good. The guide had to drag me for about an hour of the trek.
In and out of the mud, we made it to a clearing for lunch. Once I took a rest and ate a bit, I started to feel better. The rest of the way was by no means easy, but working together and deciding to stop for rest breaks more often, we made it to the base camp. It was just beautiful. Breathtaking. Only one problem- it was seriously 40 degrees. Probably less. Once we arrived, our tour guide got to work immediately making us TWO whole pots of hot tea and a surprisingly delicious hot dinner. We met an older married Canadian (eh?!) couple who was also staying there and let me borrow a down jacket. We went to bed at sunset (6pm) in about seven layers and a sleeping bag.
It had been decided after the first part of the hike by our guide that he did not want me to do the climb to the volcano. Of course we were disappointed but neither of us wanted to risk the altitude sickness again. Dave left the following morning at around 4:30am to do the hike with the guide. Turns out it was a very quick hike, but STRAIGHT up the volcano. Dave was very happy I wasn’t there since my fear of heights would have totally gotten the best of me. Instead, I spent the morning with our nice Canadian friends and my kindle. I was still freezing but a very happy girl. Dave and our guide came back and shared pictures while we ate breakfast and got ready for our muddy way back. Downhill is always easier.
There was never any down time on our trip and our post-hike was nothing different. Arriving back in Riobamba, we caught the first bus possible to our next destination: Banos. One of the many vacation spots for the locals with spas, hot springs, waterfalls, and good bars. That’s something I can agree with at this point. Our hostel in Banos was called Hostal Transilvania and is owned by Israelis. *I picked this hostel on the advice of a review who talked about their cute puppy. Again, not kidding.*
Arriving at night, we had a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant and got to bed early. The next day was one of our busiest! We woke up early and went white water rafting AND Dave did some canyoning (repelling down waterfalls with cables). Although I’m always really nervous at first, I LOVE white water rafting! The water we rafted in this time was really gross and dirty compared to the pristine glacier water when we rafted in Whistler… but it was still so much fun. I wasn’t brave enough to try canyoning but Dave loved it! After a dinner with some friends we met along the way, we relaxed and treated our aching muscles in the natural mineral hot springs.
Our last day in Banos started with a $20 for an HOUR massage- what a deal! We also got to explore, walking through the city and going on a path where you can see the entire town from afar. Dave also remembered my friend Melanie suggesting that we find the Pailon del Diablo Falls- a massive waterfall just outside Banos. The falls were absolutely amazing! We were soaking wet just from standing nearby for a few minutes.
Next up on the trip is our adventure in the Amazon Jungle, but first… we got to spend another evening at our favorite hostel- Kingdom Kichwa in Quito. (More fruit juice and cheese!!)
The best part about getting to our Amazon adventure was the transportation. Get ready: First we were picked up in the morning by a taxi and were driven to the airport. We then took a 1-hour flight to Lago Agrio- another area of Ecuador. From there, we were picked up and driven by a small bus for two hours to the entrance of the Cuyabano Reserve park. There we ate a hot lunch and were then taken on another two-hour ride, this time on a motorized canoe! We saw so many animals along the way- it was so amazing! The best thing we saw on the way in was a group of about 60 monkeys crossing the river by jumping from one tree and flying across the river to the next. Every single monkey did it… it was so funny! Even one fell in the water (he was okay!).
After our dream trip to the Amazon was done- we canoed, drove, and flew and drove back to our home base in Quito- the good ole Kingdom Kichwa! On our final day in Ecuador, we spent some time walking around the old city of Quito. We also had to take the opportunity for some last minute gorgeous photos at a lookout point- a cable car ride and 13,000+ feet above sea level! The view was spectacular. You could see the entire sprawling city, the mountains, and beautiful landscape.
After we came back down from the lookout point, it was pretty much time to get going to the airport. What an adventure! I was sad to go but happy to come back home and not wear these clothes for a very long time!!
If you are planning a trip or have any questions, feel free to contact us! We loved Ecuador in so many different ways and definitely recommend it to anyone trying to go on a really fun and affordable adventure vacation. Now the important question to leave you with here is… where should we go next?!??